"My favorite thing is to be in the lab, trying to uncover neural mechanisms of behavior with students, and sharing my appreciation for the complex interactions between brain and behavior."

Time in the laboratory has made Judith Grisel tight with mice. "I use animal models to ask questions and test hypotheses about substrates of human behavior, especially addiction," she says. "Though my hypotheses are often wrong," she jokes, "because the mice don't lie, I just have to revise my thinking. Research is a constant process of realizing what is not true."

Grisel uses several strains of mice including some transgenics (genetically modified mice) that vary in amounts of endorphin, which, she and many others hypothesize, factor into elements of human behavior including those related to addiction.

"The endorphin levels in mice — either absent, low or normal — influence how stress and sex hormones mediate the response to drugs such as alcohol," says Grisel. Because human females are more prone to stress-related disorders than males, and because humans often use drugs to alleviate stress, Grisel is exploring the role of endorphins in the relationship between stress and addiction as it might relate to sex.

The C. Graydon and Mary E. Rogers Faculty Fellow has tried a variety of ways to incite stress in mice, including exposing them to predator odor and — her latest method — giving them a "time out" of sorts.

"Mice love to run on an activity wheel," she says. "In my study, they also have the opportunity to drink alcohol, usually for just a few hours a day." Grisel says that normally, the mice run like mad and then drink in moderation — but blocking the running wheel acts as a frustration stressor, prompting the female mice drink to intoxication. She says the males don't really turn to alcohol in this paradigm as much as females do.

Grisel came to Bucknell in 2012 because she enjoys conducting research at a place where she can work with students in the lab. "My favorite thing is to be in the lab, trying to uncover neural mechanisms of behavior with students, and sharing my appreciation for the complex interactions between brain and behavior," she says. "In classes and in the lab, students have great ideas for research. They're a good source for new ways of thinking. That's a primary purpose of scholarship after all — thinking outside of boxes and across boundaries."

Posted October 2012

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